Sinking your teeth into a nice steak (or a juicy burger, if that is more your speed) comes with its own set of considerations during pregnancy- but many pregnant women find themselves with just as many questions about what it means to crave meat.
There is nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to craving meats during pregnancy- even for vegan or vegetarian mothers. And though there is not one single reason why cravings happen, cravings for meat could be signs of potential iron deficiency, amongst other reasons.
I’ll break down the potential reasons behind cravings for all types of meats, as well as ways to get your fix even if you stick to a plant-based healthy diet during pregnancy.
Craving Meat (Including Red Meat) During Pregnancy: What Does it Mean?
While there likely is no single reason that pregnancy food cravings happen, scientists do have several ideas. When it comes to craving meat, there are two that stick out.
First, meats- particularly red meats- are very good sources of iron. Not only do these foods have a lot of iron, but they contain the type known as heme iron, which is better absorbed and used by the body (source: American Red Cross).
Amounts of iron need to increase up to 27 mg daily during pregnancy, which goes to help keep up circulation between mom and her growing baby (source: Mayo Clinic).
With the increase in iron needs, some women may find themselves falling short of their daily goal. This is one potential reason for meat cravings, where the body is trying to encourage you to eat healthy foods high in the nutrients you need most.
Second, meats come with a number of safety considerations throughout pregnancy, and many women may incidentally wind up eating less of them for fear of accidentally contracting foodborne illness. Feeling like you can’t have a particular food and avoiding it entirely is one way to give yourself strong cravings (source: BBC).
Since well-cooked and steaming hot meats are still safe to enjoy while pregnant, go ahead and satisfy your common pregnancy craving.
What if I’m Craving a Particular Meat, like Steak?
As I mentioned above, red meat is a rich source of iron, which is needed in greater amounts during pregnancy. If you tend to fall behind on your daily iron needs or have been told by your medical provider that your bloodwork shows low iron levels, craving red meat may be your body’s way of helping keep your iron levels up.
Additionally, steak is often thought of being a more indulgent red meat, which can be more appealing if your body is in need of extra calories.
Craving Raw Meat When Pregnant
Without thorough cooking, you and your baby are at high risk of getting food poisoning from eating undercooked meat, so these should be avoided when pregnant.
Craving non-Red Meat When Pregnant
Though light and white meats are not quite as high in iron as red meats, they do still contain some heme-iron. Chicken, pork, and other meats are also common stars of cultural dishes and can be craved as comfort food.
I’m Vegan and Craving Meat During Pregnancy – Is This Normal?
Many vegan and vegetarian mothers are surprised when they start craving meat during pregnancy, especially if it is something that is used to make their stomachs turn. Though surprising, cravings for meat during pregnancy can definitely be normal, even for vegan or vegetarian mothers.
Similar to omnivorous mothers craving red meat, low iron is certainly a possible reason behind this craving. While there are wonderful sources of plant-based iron, this iron is not as easily used by the body and typically found in smaller amounts in foods.
Of course, eating meats is one way to satisfy your common food craving and load up on essential nutrients, but for many vegan and vegetarian mothers, this simply isn’t the right choice for them.
Enriched grains, beans and lentils, tofu, nuts, molasses, and dark greens are all good sources of plant-based iron. If you are a vegetarian who eats eggs, these are another good source (source: Cleveland Clinic).
Be sure to check with your medical provider before starting an iron supplement, as most prenatal vitamins already contain some supplemental iron.
Vegan mothers may also be craving meats as a source of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in animal products, but is especially essential during pregnancy to develop a baby’s central nervous system and spinal cord (source: American Pregnancy Association).
Finally, the mysterious meat craving might not be related to nutrients at all. Rather, you might find the smell, texture, or flavor combination appealing. If you choose to eat them, vegan meat alternatives often have similar flavors and mouthfeels minus the meat.
Does Craving Meat When Pregnant Mean a Boy or a Girl?
If you are/have been pregnant then there is a good chance you’ve heard the old adage that cravings for sweet foods means you’re having a girl and cravings for savory/salty foods means you’re having a boy. Since meats are typically served in a savory style, does craving meat mean you are carrying a baby boy?
Unfortunately, there is no scientific proof that checking in with your food cravings accurately predicts your baby’s gender. If you are craving meat during your pregnancy there is still an equal chance of having a girl- though it’s always fun to take a guess!
Out-of-the-blue cravings of any kind can be confusing, but especially when it’s food-like meat that you are not used to craving! Hopefully, you can now rest assured knowing a few reasons why meat cravings can be a normal part of pregnancy.